Oklahoma DOT refuses to raise speed limit

Last week an Oklahoma DOT spokesman said the agency did not want to comply with a new law raising the speed limit.

Here’s the background. Under current law the maximum allowable speed limit is 65 on two lane roads and 70 on divided highways. The Turnpike is 75. Remember “Convoy”? “We rolled up Interstate 44 like a rocket sled on rails.” That’s the Turnpike. It’s straight and fast.

The DOT can post those speeds without further justification, or lower the speed limit based on an engineering study.

Starting November 1, those speed limits are repealed. The DOT may only post a speed limit if it is justified by an engineering study.

If they have been following the old law all existing speed limits below 65/70/75 are justified by engineering studies. But those maximum limits don’t have to be, and I don’t believe the DOT’s claim that “all of the highways are currently signed for what we believe they can handle.”

Other states don’t do routine studies to justify statutory speed limits. I wouldn’t have done them if I ran Oklahoma DOT. Why ask if the speed limit should be 65 or 70 when the law doesn’t allow 70?

But now the law does allow 70, and more importantly it says that any speed limit justified by “we post 65 on two lane roads” is not valid. Or “the legislature told us to post 70 in Interstates and 75 on the Turnpike.” Not any more.

DOT engineers should spend the next five months surveying highways posted at the old statutory speed limits. The studies would decide if the road needs a speed limit and if so what the limit should be. They have five months because on November 1 the DOT has to start taking down any speed limit signs that aren’t justified.

They’re not going to do this. The department “has no intention of raising any of the speed limits across the board.” They might look at specific requests, but more likely will dismiss them as “frivolous”.

The law says a request to justify an existing 65, 70, or 75 mph speed limit is not frivolous. It is mandatory, and the DOT should do it without prompting.

The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.

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